Category Archives: GROW & COOK

Growing Daikon Radishes; Preparing Asparagus & Mice Radishes.

BEETS

Red beets ready to cook.

Red beets ready to cook.  

BEETS, GROWING AND COOKING  Anne K Moore

I have lived in the South for more than 30 years but, since I grew up “up Noth”, the only greens I was acquainted with as a youngster was spinach. Southerners have always used many different types of greens with their meals. One that is grown throughout most of the country mainly for its bulbous root is the beet. And yet, historically, beets were originally grown for their tops. If you use heirloom seed, you might be disappointed in the size of the root. Check descriptions carefully when purchasing seed if you want to have large bulbous roots.

Beet seed is actually a hard capsule that contains several seeds. If you soak the seed for 24 hours, you will get quicker germination. This misshapen “seed ball” usually contains two to four viable seeds.

Beets need a soft growing area so their roots will mature correctly. Prepare a seed bed deeply in a well-drained area. Add plenty of compost to improve both clay and sandy soils. The pH should be between 6.5 & 7.5.

Sow the beet seeds 1/2 to 3/4 inches deep, 3 inches apart, in rows 2 to 3 feet apart. Keep the soil moist but not wet.

The most critical thing to do when growing beets is to snip off all but one beet plant seedling so the bulb will have room to grow. Since beet seed is actually several seeds in a cluster, you have to thin the seedlings by cutting off all but the strongest plant in each planting hole. (Do not pull them; you can damage the roots of the plant you want to save.)

Begin thinning when seedlings are about 4 to 5 inches tall. Thin to 3 to 4 inches apart if you plan to harvest young, small, or cylindrical-shaped roots, or 6-inch spacing for larger roots. Don’t waste the young tender thinnings, toss them in a salad.

Beets Tolerate temperatures to 40 degrees F. so plant them early in the spring. A late fall crop can be planted, too. Think about the coming temperatures. Beets will bolt (send flower stalks & be inedible) with temperatures as little as 50 degrees, if these temperatures last for more than 2 weeks.

Gardeners usually love or hate the earthy taste of beets. I love beets and usually eat them after oven roasting.

Beets cleaned, trimmed, and ready to wrap in foil.

Beets cleaned, trimmed, and ready to wrap in foil.

 

 

They are delicious served hot as a vegetable side or cold as a summer-time salad. To roast beets, trim the tops and root to about an inch long. Cutting them close can result in the red color “bleeding” excessively  from the cuts. Don’t peel them. Scrub them clean with a brush and warm water.

Pat dry and coat each beet with olive oil. Using a fork, prick the skin on the beet, then wrap in aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees fahrenheit. Roasting can take 1 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the beets.

Let them cool until you can safely peel them and remove the tops and root sections. They can be stored in the refrigerator and reheated in a pan or microwave.

Beets in pan with butter.

Roasted beets ready to heat and eat.refrigerator and reheated in a pan or the microwave.

 

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When to Harvest Broccoli

Text & photos Anne K Moore

Successful vegetable growing has to be followed by harvesting at the peak of flavor. After all, that is one of the primary reasons for growing at home. Taste is everything.

Broccoli is a cool season vegetable and will quit producing and try to go to seed as soon as the weather warms up.

Green broccoli florets

Steamed broccoli florets.

Broccoli florets should be cut off as a whole head just below where it fills out on the stalk. You will notice small, even tiny little side shoots below the primary first head.

Leave these and soon you will have filled out florets to harvest. As you harvest, leave any immature sprouts. You can harvest broccoli for a long period, often a month if the weather doesn’t do a quick turn-around from cool to hot.

Once you have them in the kitchen, rinse off the head and cut  it into bite size florets. A quick steaming, just a few short minutes, is all it takes to bring broccoli to the table. Serve it up when it is bright green and fork tender. You can add cheese or butter or just serve it plain. Delicious!

Broccoli florets comparison between harvest ready and past its prime.

Left-harvest ready, right-past prime

Once the air heats up, the broccoli will start to bolt, which is the word we use for going to flower. Even when the florets are swelling into buds, the taste will not be as good as when they are tight. Once the blossoms open, the broccoli is past its prime and anything you harvest from that plant will be bitter.

Bolted broccoli

Blooming Broccoli

If you are not replanting a summer crop right away in the same spot, leave the blooming plants. Pollinators will be happy for the early meals.

RHUBARB CUSTARD PIE

Recipe RHUBARB CUSTARD PIE

golden pie

Anne K Moore
Photographs Anne K Moore

Since I live in the South, I don’t get much rhubarb and have never tried to grow it. It does not like our hot summers. There is a rhubarb now with variegated leaves, which would fit nicely into a flower border.

I do wish it would grow here because I love rhubarb pie like Mama used to make. Back in Ohio where I grew up, our rhubarb patch came with the farm. It died down every winter and came back up every spring. To my knowledge we never did anything to it. It grew at the edge of the lawn beside a hard path.

Variegated leaves

My dolls and I would often have tea parties under the big cedar trees using rhubarb leaves as tea plates.

I have eaten the stalks raw with a good dosing of sugar, but my favorite is Mama’s rhubarb custard pie. I know many folks like rhubarb/strawberry pie, but I never developed a liking for the combination. I do love the sweet and sour play-off of the flavors in the custard pie.

A few days ago, I was thrilled to find fresh rhubarb stalks in the local Piggly Wiggly. I brought home a pound, rifled through Mama’s recipe box, and made my Mama’s pie. Since I’m dieting I substituted granulated Splenda for the sugar in the recipe. Although Splenda says to use it in the same measurements as sugar, I find it too sweet to use that way, so I didn’t use quite so much. I did use sugar on top of the top crust. It brought back many childhood memories.

RECIPE – RHUBARB CUSTARD PIE

Oven 400 degrees F.

9 inch pie plate lined with pastry dough (I used store bought.)
2 Tablespoons butter & 1 teaspoon melted for crust
Rhubarb stalks (about 1 pound) washed and cut into 1 inch slices to make 4 cups
3 eggs, slightly beaten

Blend together:
1 1/4 cups granulated Splenda (1 ½ cups sugar if not using Splenda) or to taste
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Beat the blended dry ingredients into the eggs. Then fold in the cut rhubarb. Fill the pie plate pastry and dot the top of the filling with butter. Cover with a top crust, cut slits to vent it, then brush it with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 50-60 minutes until filling no longer wiggles under the crust. Cool completely before serving and keep leftovers refrigerated.